Weekend concerts celebrate jazz composer


Local jazz and classical musicians will join jazz pianist and composer Valerie Capers for concerts Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 30 and 31, at 3 p.m. at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto.

The concerts, which benefit the school, are presented by the African American Composer Initiative -- co-founded by Menlo Park pianist Josephine Gandolfi; singer, pianist and former judge LaDoris Cordell; and singer and pianist Deanne Tucker. Both concerts will feature the same program, which is billed as "a special musical celebration" of Ms. Capers.

A Juilliard-schooled musician who has received a long list of honors, Ms. Capers has been blind since age 6, receiving her early education at the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind. She has performed at jazz festivals throughout the world, often with bassist John Robinson, who will join her for the local concerts.

The program includes Ms. Capers' arrangements of jazz standards by Duke Ellington and Abbey Lincoln, and her arrangement of music by Richard Wagner, featuring San Francisco Opera Orchestra flutist Stephanie McNab.

Her song cycle, "Seasons of Love" for voice, cello and piano, will also be performed, featuring soprano Yolanda Rhodes. The piece was commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution.

Also on the program are excerpts from her collection, "Portraits in Jazz" musical tributes to jazz legends Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton.

The program also features "Ruby," a "docu-drama" composition by Ms. Capers telling of the experiences of Ruby Bridges, who in 1960, at the age of 6, became the first child to integrate New Orleans public schools and "changed the course of history in this country," according to Ms. Gandolfi. Lauren Sibley takes the stage in the role of Ruby.

Bassist John Robinson's tarantella with jazz overtones, written expressly for these concerts, will be performed by the Picasso Ensemble: Ms. Gandolfi on the piano, violinist Susan C. Brown, and cellist Victoria Ehrlich.

Ms. Capers' arrangement of a "freedom song" with roots in the spiritual tradition, "Hold On: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize," will be performed by the Eastside Choir, directed by David Chaidez and joined by the entire company of musicians.

In addition to the African American Composer Initiative founders and others listed above, those musicians include clarinetist Carol Somersille, percussionist Jim Kassis, trumpeter John Worley, trombonist John Monroe, and bassoonist Rufus Olivier III.

Many of the musicians have performed regularly in these benefit concerts, which since 2009 have been devoted to music by African American composers.

Concert tickets are $20 general, and $5 for seniors and students.

Click here to buy tickets online through Brown Paper Tickets.

Eastside Prep is at 1041 Myrtle St. in East Palo Alto.

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